Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I had an awesome day! My roommates/companion and I woke up at 6:30 and opened up presents! We went to our Bishop's house to call home and SKYPE with our families (first year missionaries have been able to skype home - it was SO SO SO awesome!). We hung out and played games with his family and mainly just relaxed. That evening we went to a members house and had an excellent dinner and played games, read the nativity story from the Bible, and had a peaceful, fun evening. Thank you for all the cards, letters, and gifts I received! I felt so spoiled this Christmas! It was definitley one of my favorites - getting to serve as a representative of Jesus Christ on the day we celebrate his birth! AND getting to talk to/see my family was uh-freakin-mazing! :) Love you all, I'll have more to say next week.

Love, Elder David Dransfield
Skyping with the family

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas, It's the Best Time of the Year!!

I love Ohio snow!

My Dear Loyal Fans,

I love you all so much! First I would like to make a shout out to Ashley Holt: Thank you for the amazing Christmas package - it was perfect! I loved the article you sent me by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland called "Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come from a Store" If anyone hasn't read it, you should. It has made me look at Christmas differently now: You're awesome Ash! :) Thank you!

Alright... This past week was freakin' SWEET! We had 11 LMP's and 8 new investigators! (LMP = Lesson taught member present - the best lessons are when you have a member with you!) We took 3 young men in our ward on mini-missions so we could expose them to the world of missionaries (SO awesome!). Best of all, we had our Christmas Mission Conference in the Kirtland Temple!

Kirtland was so so so so so awesome! We woke up around 5:30am so we could be on the road by 6am. We get to the Kirtland Stake Center (a church building) and are having an awesome time talking and catching up with missionaries. Elder Robison and I were in charge of bringing all the necessities for the Sacrament (the treys, the bread, the cups, the cloth, etc.) - this is where it turns into quite the adventure. We grab everything, quickly drive over to the Kirtland Temple, begin to set up the water treys and when we realize we didn't grab the cups! So we drive back to the church building, realize we don't have the keys to the building. We drive back to the Temple, get the keys from the AP's, drive back to the church, can only find half a bag of cups, drive back, President says, 'Do you think that's enough?' We say, 'That's all there is!' President says, 'No there are more under the sink! Go get them!' We drive back, talk to a homeless couple trying to find money for gas, find more cups, drive back (by now Mission Conference is running 30 minutes behind schedule because of us!), and get back only to be told we had enough cups afterall! Sidenote: The parking lot for the Kirtland Temple is a good 150 meters from the Temple, and to save time we'd cut through the grass - which is covered with snow. So after running through all that snow six or so times, I was tired and wet!

Finally our Christmas Mission Conference began. We had some opening hymns, announcements, and then we administered the Sacrament. The Assistant's blessed the bread and water, and us six Zone Leaders that were present passed it. It was a very special, Spiritual experience. The entire Mission Conference was. All the talks that were given were great and the musical number and hymns were so powerful! After President and Sister Sorensen, the Kirtland Stake President, Karl Anderson, and a few others spoke, we split into our Zones and had a testimony meeting. Such great testimonies were shared. That day there was such a great outpouring of the Spirit! It felt like the Spirit was just gushing out of the vents - an amazing experience I will never forget. We closed singing, The Spirit of God, standing in the four corners of the Temple (I assume just as the choir would have back in the day). It. Was. Amazing. So. Powerful. So. Beautiful. That day in Kirtland was a cold, dark, snowy winter day in Ohio. Here in the winter, the sun is rarely shinning. The Kirtland Temple has big windows - their purpose being to light up the temple (back then they didn't exactly have lightbulbs). Despite the dark outside, the Temple was so bright inside - there was a glow about it that was so sacred. The Spirit was so incredibly strong that day. I left the temple edified, understanding my purpose and our Heavenly Father's love more intimately, determined to live up to the potential that the Lord sees in me.

I love my mission. So, so much. It's worth no television for two years. It's worth only four phone calls home for two years. It's worth not being home for Christmas this week. It's worth waking up at 6:30am every morning. I love this work. It is so very important. My purpose as a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. The message we  share enables others to improve the quality of their lives. Our message is centered in Jesus Christ, and is of great value and importance. As missionaries, we are guides so that people can learn the truth of our message for themselves. In no way, shape, or form do we force our knowledge onto others. We invite people to find out for themselves through prayer and reading of the Book of Mormon.

Oh, how I love the Book of Mormon. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said this in the October 2009 General Conference:

"As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?

Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor.9 Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”10"

I've been asked what the daily lifestyle of a Zone Leader is. It's not much different from being a regular missionary.
6:30 - wake up, exercise, shower, eat
8:00 - personal study
9:00 - companion study
10:00 - work
12:00 - lunch
1:00 - work
5:00 - dinner w/ member
6:00 - work
9:00 - head back to the apartment to plan for the next day
10:30 - sleep
and by "work" I mean teach lessons, service, visit members, knock on doors, etc. We mostly teach lessons here because the Lord has blessed us with so many families and individuals to teach. I am so grateful for the trust the Lord has in me to teach these people!

Sundays - we have to report numbers. The District Leaders call us and give us the numbers for that week (investigators to Sacrament meeting, lessons taught to investigators with a member present, other lessons taught, referrals, etc.) for their district. We then call the Assistants to the President and report the numbers to them. They then can see how the Mission is doing.

Tuesdays - we go to District Meetings in other areas, teaching lessons and observing the other missionaries. We then usually will go on exchanges with the missionaries (we pair off differently with another set of missionaries for a day) where we can again observe the missionaries and help them (and ourselves) become stronger servants of the Lord.

Other than that... we're pretty normal. We just take care of our zone - make sure the missionaries are doing their work, are emotionally, physically, and spiritually okay, we figure out transportation for them, plan when our Zone is going to get together, we have to go interview all the investigators getting baptized in our zone, etc.

Interviewing! Oh man! I've only conducted baptismal interviews twice so far, but I love it! It's SO awesome to get to talk one-on-one with someone who has found out for themselves the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and have made the necessary changes (repentance) to be worthy to enter into the waters of baptism, being baptized by someone holding the proper Priesthood authority! This one lady last night and I talked for maybe 45 minutes. There are only 6 questions I have to ask but the interview isn't meant to be a yes/no interview. The interview is to make sure that the individual has a testimony; to make sure the individual is ready to be baptized. I asked her if we could start the interview off with a prayer (we pray so much as missionaries, it's wonderful!) and asked if she would mind saying it. She said "No way, I don't pray in public. I'm good praying in my head but not out loud." I agreed that I would pray but she would say our closing prayer. She was reluctant again and I assured her that she has nothing to worry about - I'm no one to feel intimidated by. We had an amazing interview and it came time for the closing prayer. We talked a little bit about prayer: what it is, why we do it, how we do it, and then we bowed our heads. She gave the most beautiful prayer. It was simple, but so sweet and pure. I'm so excited to see this individual make such a great change in her life and am excited to attend her baptism this coming Sunday! (In Fremont - again, one of the perks of being a Zone Leader. I can go to the baptisms in my zone!)

Well... anyone who has read this much is probably tired and their eyes hurt from staring at the computer. So I'll let you all go back to your Christmas celebrations/fun. Amidst the fun, try to remember our Savior and all that He has done for us. In Matthew 1:21, an angel says to Joseph, "And [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." That small, little baby born in the manger from day one was here to save us all. Don't forget that. I love our Heavenly Father and His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. A mission is just a small way that I can repay them for the countless blessings they have bestowed upon me, though I'll forever be in debt (they keep blessing me! I can't keep up!).

I love you all. I know I say this every week but I really do. I think about you often (yes, you!) and wish you the very best Christmas this year! Send me a letter and let me know how your life is. I love hearing from you and receiving pictures of your life. Thank you for all that you've done for me and the great examples you are!

Love, Elder David Dransfield

Monday, December 6, 2010

ZLs, DLs, ZDMs, APs, P-Day, LMPs, RCLAs, TMFA! (too many fetching acronyms!)

The Perks of Being a Zone Leader
1. You get a car. Oh wait- just kidding. You get a truck!
2. Missionaries are obligated to fear you.
3. You get to witness the progress that occurs in your zone, as well as across the entire mission.
4. You get to pass the sacrament in the Kirtland Temple this December 14th for Mission Conference (how many people can say they've passed the sacrament in the Kirtland Temple??)
5. You get to go on exchanges with all of the missionaries in your zone (work with other missionaries for a day), teaching them and learning from them. You also get to be an example to them.
6. You get to attend Zone Council and make decisions that will change the culture of the mission. Forever. "I got the powa!"
7. You can call whoever you want, whenever you want, for whatever reason you want! (Although that may be a little bit false...don't quote me on this one...)
8. Doctrine and Covenants 95:5 - BOOYA!
9. You become a legend in the mission for being the youngest Zone Leader ever called. How does that Sandlot quote go? Just kidding, I'm no legend. People just know me as "the zone leader whose only been out six weeks" ...great.
10. Number 8 was a joke. Being a Zone Leader (at least for me) is extremely humbling. I feel honored to know that the Lord has such trust in me - an ordinary, simple missionary. I hope I can magnify my calling and make Him proud.

Now some random facts about my missionary life:
- It's snowing now. Last night it finally stuck and there is a thin layer covering Finlay. I guess it's pretty, but it's WAY TOO COLD!!! Thermals = love.
- I saw Andy and Rachel Kirkham (and their kids) on Saturday! Our stake has an annual Christmas celebration where they set up lots of different kinds of nativities and have choirs sing, games for kids, etc. for the whole community and all faiths. We were asked to sing in the choir with our ward and I saw them! It was so exciting to see a familiar face and get to talk to them! They offered to take things to or from California for me since they'll be going back to Roseville for Christmas. Such a nice offer - I'll have to see if I can think of anything! But talking to them (as well as the story below) definitely made my day!
- There is a missionary from my ward in the Roseville mission! She's a sister missionary - Sister Carlson. Funny! 
- We are getting a Christmas tree today! We're borrowing a stand from the Kreegers and probably some decorations from a nonmember family that enjoys having us over (and we enjoy coming over!)
- My mission president, President Sorensen, is a spiritual giant. I have no doubt that he is one of the, if not the, best mission presidents in the world.
- I occasionally have to take a cold shower in the mornings (there are 4 of us and only enough hot water for builds character, right?)
- Findlay has the coolest "downtown" ever! It's clean, old-ish looking, and has normal stores. It's awesome.
- I was fed pizza 8 of my first 10 days out here. It's a mystery why. Members kept having things come up so they'd send us a pizza or drop off a pizza for us to eat. Alas, I did not gain a pound :(
- We have trains behind our apartment. When they blare their horn, they're loud. But it's also pretty cool. We also have a big pond in our backyard. I have pictures and videos that I'll send home.

My Christmas Wish-List:
1. A cheap-ish Garman GPS :)
2. Ties
3. Sweater Vests
4. Scripture markers that don't need to be sharpened (and have more than 1 color)
5. My Priesthood Lineage chart
6. Hand Warmers
7. Candy - any kind!
8. Pictures! I love pictures from back home: family, friends, dog, I don't care!
9. A warm blanket!
10. A beenie that doesn't say "REI" on it
11. A nice, warm, sweatshirt
12. A mini-Preach My Gospel
13. MUSIC! Oh my goodness music. Has to be either a hymn, something sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a song that they have sung in years past (not all are hymns) aaand yeah. Preferably not Mo-Tab. Christmas music would be nice too.
14. A Gospel Art booklet
15. Gift card to Olive Garden? - I could share with my comp/roommates ;)
16. Sharpies
17. World Peace!
18. Hot chocolate mix!
20. For everyone to have an awesome Christmas :)

I think that's that... of course I don't expect any/all of those things. People have asked, so here is my answer. I don't expect anything though.

A cool story:
Elder Robison, a member (Brother Fagan), and I went to go visit a former investigator on a bitter-cold Saturday afternoon. We walked up the long driveway to the house and knocked on the door - which in the cold is very painful. The door opens. A head of a young, high school-aged girl pops out. We ask for the couple Elder Robison once knew and she explains that they no longer live here. We ask if we can come back at another time (when her mom is home) and she says that's probably fine. We exchange goodbyes, and walk back towards the car. As we are slowly walking down the long driveway, a car pulls up and drives by. The women in the car gives us a half-smile as she passes. We continue to walk to the car when my companion says "No, we need to go back." We agree and walk back towards the house where the women is getting out of her car. We say hello and ask how she is. She replies with a "Not so good." We say, "Not so good? Well we were just talking with your daughter-" she says "Just come inside." Without another word she turns around and walks inside. We follow. (Is this dramatic for ya'all? Because I'm having fun with it!). The daughter is excited to see us again and her and her mom sit down on the couch. We sit on the adjacent couch and listen as they explain to us that their 4-year-old Niece was killed yesterday in a car accident. We start talking about how they can see their niece again. "I know I'll see her again. And I know everything happens a reason" the mother noted. We talk a little about the Plan of Salvation and ask if we can have a prayer. We offer a prayer and by the end the family is in tears. We asked about their religious background and they just stared firing off such amazing topics. They talked about how society is desecrating religion and God. How there can't be so many churches - there can only be one that's true. How the Bible has been changed so many times, how can we trust it completely? To everything they said, we agreed. Now it was their turn to agree on what we talked about - the Restortion. To almost everything we discussed with them they would say, "That makes so much sense." or "I was wondering about that...yeah that has to be right!" The Spirit in that home was so sweet and strong. By the end of our lesson, their entire persona had changed. You could SEE a literal glow in their eyes, a light, that light that is found amongst so many Latter-Day Saints, the Light of Christ. At the beginning of our lesson, there was so much pain, so much sorrow, so much confusion. Near the end of our lesson we asked them how they felt. They stopped and thought about it and said they felt good, at peace, they felt happy once again. The mother said that she knows that we did not come over by coincidence. That this must be a sign. - I know that we did not stop by that house that day at that hour at that very second by coincidence. As missionaries, nothing is coincidence. They invited us to come back and we invited them to come to church which they openly accepted. The mother has two young kids, the teenage girl as an "adopted" daughter, and an finance. The family is so sweet and kind, and I'm excited to teach them more and watch that light in their eyes become permanent.

My Testimony - what I Know to be true:
What a glorious thing this gospel is. How amazing the changes that take place in peoples lives as they come to accept it and know for themselves that the church is true. That the Book of Mormon is the word of God. That Joseph Smith did restore this Gospel to the earth. I know these things to be true! I also know that families can be together forever! I know that our Heavenly Father loves us! God is a loving, just God. He would never leave any of his children in the dark. He is the same yesterday,today, and tomorrow. I know that we have a prophet here on the earth, who leads and guides us to the pathway that will lead us back to God's presence. The plan is simple. The commandments are simple. The Doctrine of Christ is simple: have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end (or in other words, repeat). The Atonement of Jesus Christ - it is everything. Everything, literally EVERYTHING in this gospel directly relates back to that Infinite Atonement. How beautiful. I challenge everyone to study and come to understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, especially during this Christmas season. It's funny that we call it Christmas, when it really should be said CHRIST-mas.

I love you all. Thank you for all of the support. Letters are (very) slowly being written back, so have patience with me. Now that I'm a Zone Leader I have even less time for myself. Although I guess that's what truly constitutes a good mission: when one can finally lose himself in the work.

Love, Elder David Dransfield